Once again Flourish with Food is focusing on a specific food associated with slowing the cognitive changes people often experience as they get older.  This month’s focus is seeds – a brain-healthy food generally lumped together with nuts, both of which are associated with the Mediterranean dietary pattern.

Interesting trivia:  What sets nuts and seeds apart?  Interestingly, some foods commonly called nuts are botanically seeds. 

Botanically a nut is a single dry seed with a hard outer shell and a protective outer shell.  Think pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts. 

Botanically a seed is the embryo stage of a plant. The seed has an outer coat which stores food to nourish the growing plant. The seed becomes edible when the coat is shed. Think flaxseeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds and macadamia nuts.

However, the culinary world considers “seeds” to include sesame, chia, poppy, pumpkin, sunflower, caraway, hemp, and flaxseeds.  Seeds offer wonderful crunch, taste, and versatility.  Toasting raw seeds generally enhances their flavor.

Nutrition pluses include fiber, heart-healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) with anti-inflammatory properties.  An ounce of most seeds can contain significant protein (3-6 grams).  

However, many seeds are a minor ingredient in a recipe or food item.  Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, though, make a great snack eaten alone. Pumpkin seeds are sometimes called pepitas when sold in their green shell.

For snacking, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are available raw or roasted, shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted, flavored or not.  One ounce of whole pumpkin or sunflower seeds is about ¼ cup.  Check the Nutrition Facts label for protein and calories in an ounce serving.  

Seeds have delicate oils that can become rancid. It’s okay to store at room temperature for a short time.  However, most culinary experts recommend storing in a dry, airtight container (i.e., mason jar) in a cool environment or refrigerator for long term storage.  

Ways to get in seeds:

  • Substitute sunflower seeds for croutons in a green salad
  • Add flax, hemp or chia seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies
  • Toss in sesame seeds to stir-fried dishes, along with a sprinkle of sesame oil
  • Bake into cookies and breads
  • Add to pancakes and waffles
  • Add caraway seeds to coleslaw
  • Buy trail mixes with seeds

Banana Flaxseed Bread

1 c. all-purpose flour

¾ c. whole wheat flour

¾ c. milled (ground) flaxseed (see note below)

¾ c. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt (optional)

2 eggs

1/3 c. canola oil

1 c. mashed bananas (2-3 ripe)

  1. Mix flours, flaxseed, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and oil
  3. Add dry ingredients and mashed banana alternately to the egg and oil mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Pour into a greased 9”x 5” loaf pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Source: Flax Council of Canada (an old recipe in my recipe box)

For a crunchy-top version of this recipe: https://healthyflax.org/recipes/banana-bread

Note: Flaxseeds need to be ground because the ground form is more easily and completely digested.  Flaxseeds can be purchased pre-ground or easily ground with a coffee grinder. 

The December Flourish with Food will feature pomegranates and its seed – a seasonal favorite.